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Jonathan Coe, 5 December 1991

In Black and White 
by Christopher Stevenson.
New Caxton Press, 32 pp., £1.95
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The Tree of Life 
by Hugh Nissenson.
Carcanet, 159 pp., £6.95, September 1991, 0 85635 874 6
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Cley 
by Carey Harrison.
Heinemann, 181 pp., £13.99, November 1991, 0 434 31368 8
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... especially the death of Jethro Stone, which is nastier than anything you will find in Stephen King – leave the reader groping for some sort of moral context in which to view them. Nissenson seems to have concentrated all his energies on drawing a portrait of the period so filled with specifics that some echo of the contemporary ...

Be Rapture Ready! The end times are nigh!

John Sutherland: Armageddon - out of here, 5 June 2003

Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages 
by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Tyndale House, 398 pp., £15.99, April 2003, 0 8423 3234 0
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... lasagna behind them. The same happens all over the planet. Call it the Rapture or the Rip-Off: Stephen King had done the disappearing passenger thing in ‘The Langoliers’ in 1990. But why should the devil have all the good stories? Left Behind sets up the narrative framework for the subsequent volumes. Rayford Steele, the pilot of the enraptured ...

One Enchanted Evening

J. Robert Lennon: Chris Adrian, 17 November 2011

The Great Night 
by Chris Adrian.
Granta, 292 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 1 84708 186 5
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... borrows characters and plot elements from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but owes just as much to Stephen King and Armistead Maupin, whose Tales of the City series informs some of its more melodramatic aspects. Three heartbroken San Franciscans (‘mortals,’ in the parlance of the novel) on their way to a party on Midsummer’s Night make the fateful ...

He’s Humbert, I’m Dolores

Emily Witt, 21 May 2020

My Dark Vanessa 
by Kate Elizabeth Russell.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £12.99, March, 978 0 00 834224 1
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... and sold it in 2018 for more than a million dollars. The blurbs from people like Gillian Flynn and Stephen King (‘stunning’, ‘gripping’, ‘brilliant’) led me to believe I was sitting down to a thriller, but there are no unexpected plot twists here. In a disclaimer, Russell says any similarities with her own upbringing – she grew up in Maine ...

Goldfinching

Christian Lorentzen: ‘American Dirt’, 20 February 2020

... rights not far behind; the reason it garnered glowing blurbs from Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, Stephen King and Don Winslow; the reason it was widely listed in the American press as one of the year’s most anticipated books; the reason Oprah Winfrey selected it for her recently revived book club; and the reason it debuted at the top of the New York ...

King of Razz

Alfred Appel Jr: Homage to Fats Waller, 9 May 2002

... Modernists such as Picasso begot paper collage, wood assemblage and metal sculpture. ‘I’m king of the ragpickers!’ Picasso proclaimed gleefully around 1930, after he had created Woman in a Garden, his first welded tin and scrap iron sculpture, proof that machines and Tin Can Alley do not ‘rule the world’, as Leopold Bloom laments over noisy ...

A Dreadful Drumming

Theo Tait: Ghosts, 6 June 2013

The Undiscovered Country: Journeys among the Dead 
by Carl Watkins.
Bodley Head, 318 pp., £20, January 2012, 978 1 84792 140 6
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A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof 
by Roger Clarke.
Particular, 360 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84614 333 5
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... animal parts and regurgitated cotton smeared in goose fat’) and Daniel Dunglas Home (the king of all mediums, who could fly out of one window and back in another, like a Stephen King vampire). There’s enough there to sustain an entire book: see Deborah Blum’s very enjoyable Ghost Hunters. Spiritualism ...

How to Be a Knight

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Marshal, 21 May 2015

The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power behind Five English Thrones 
by Thomas Asbridge.
Simon and Schuster, 444 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7432 6862 2
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... hero at the age of five, when his father offered him as a hostage in a high-risk manoeuvre against King Stephen which won John Marshal control of Newbury Castle during the messy civil war between Stephen and Queen Matilda (Stephen was charmed out of murderous fury when the doughty ...

A Man It Would Be Unwise to Cross

Stephen Alford: Thomas Cromwell, 8 November 2018

Thomas Cromwell: A Life 
by Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Allen Lane, 752 pp., £30, September 2018, 978 1 84614 429 5
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... block or the fire was lit under the prisoner bound to a stake. Volatility in this book is left to King Henry, tantrums and petty revenge to Anne Boleyn, sulks and tactlessness to Stephen Gardiner, fuming at upstart nobodies to His Grace the Duke of Norfolk. Cromwell, without title and for a long time without proper ...

Farewell Sovereignty

Stephen Sedley: The Case for the Regicides, 9 February 2006

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold 
by Geoffrey Robertson.
Chatto, 429 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7011 7602 4
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... he was now moving directly to 1660, because everything that had happened between the trial of the king and the restoration of the monarchy was a nullity. By this simple and efficient process John Cooke, the barrister who prosecuted Charles I, has been airbrushed from history, save by a handful of historians of the trial who have written him off as a ...

Did Harold really get it in the eye?

Patrick Wormald: The Normans, 3 June 2004

The Battle of Hastings, 1066 
by M.K. Lawson.
Tempus, 288 pp., £16.99, October 2003, 0 7524 1998 6
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The Normans: The History of a Dynasty 
by David Crouch.
Hambledon, 345 pp., £25, July 2002, 1 85285 387 5
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Domesday Book: A Complete Translation 
edited by Ann Williams and G.H. Martin.
Penguin, 1436 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 14 143994 7
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... Yet the price paid for good sources at this stage of history is that they rarely agree. Take King Harold’s arrow in the eye, a central icon of English history. We have a number of accounts of his death, all of which differ. What may well be the earliest version (though not all historians agree) has him cut down by William himself, together with the ...

Under the Soles of His Feet

Stephen Alford: Henry’s Wars, 4 April 2019

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 297 pp., £35, January 2018, 978 0 19 880286 0
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... In the​ First Book of Kings (5:1-5) Hiram, King of Tyre, sends servants to Solomon, ‘for he had heard, that they had anointed him king in the room of his father,’ David: For Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet ...

Into Thin Air

Marina Warner: Science at the Séances, 3 October 2002

The Invention of Telepathy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 334 pp., £35, June 2002, 0 19 924962 8
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... of possession and altered states in work by writers from Margaret Atwood to Joyce Carol Oates to Stephen King. The alliance of entertainment media with magic, telepathy and possession grows ever stronger, in writing for children, in television programmes – even the Teletubbies are psychic channellers – and, of course, in the X-Files, horror films ...

Slapping the Clammy Flab

John Lanchester: Hannibal by Thomas Harris, 29 July 1999

Hannibal 
by Thomas Harris.
Heinemann, 496 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 434 00940 7
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... who knew no more of fear and kindness etc. It’s as if this book belongs to a different genre; Stephen King, in a rave review for the New York Times, argued that the novel was pure and simply a work of Horror. That might be true, but the trouble is that the novel’s greatest horror, which comes at its ending, is also its chief implausibility. Clarice ...

Somebody Shoot at Me!

Ian Sansom: Woody Guthrie’s Novel, 9 May 2013

House of Earth: A Novel 
by Woody Guthrie.
Fourth Estate, 234 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 750985 0
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... discarded. Guthrie, like, say, Balzac, Simenon, Joyce Carol Oates, Bob Dylan, Richmal Crompton and Stephen King, was basically a writing machine, someone constantly in the process of noting, notating and composing. Born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912, Guthrie was brought up in Texas, then lived in California, New York and Florida, but he didn’t really ...

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